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British officer charged with damaging church
A stained-glass window
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BY KEITH EPPS
An officer in Britain's Royal Navy was arrested early Saturday after someone broke into a Fredericksburg church and caused thousands of dollars' worth of damage, police said.
Edmund Whitehead, 22, of Wales was charged with burglary, destruction of property and assault on a law-enforcement officer. The latter charge stemmed from spitting on a police officer during the arrest, Fredericksburg police spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe said.
The incident occurred at Fredericksburg Baptist Church at 1019 Princess Anne St., one of the oldest and largest churches in the area. One stained-glass window there was destroyed, and another was damaged.
Whitehead is a low-ranking officer in the British military force, police said. He was temporarily stationed at Quantico for training exercises.
According to Bledsoe, the incident began with what turned out to be an apparently unrelated burglary at a downtown business. An employee at one of the local nightspots reported seeing a man kick in the back door of City Lights, a hair salon at 1004 Charles St., about 12:20 a.m.
Police found the door kicked in, but they did not find the man. The witness gave police a description, and officers began searching the area.
About 15 minutes later, two officers who were searching while riding bicycles heard glass breaking at the church. After calling for backup, they saw a large object, later determined to be a door, punch through a stained-glass window from the inside.
More loud noises were heard as officers surrounded the building. A few moments later, a man walked outside, saw police and surrendered.
While being taken into custody, the man spit on a police officer, Bledsoe said, adding that he continued spitting after being placed in a police cruiser.
Police checked the building and found two stained-glass windows broken and an antique red door damaged. An interior door that had been removed from its hinges had been thrown through the window. The man had apparently forced open a lock on an exterior door to get inside, Bledsoe said.
Dennis Sacrey, the church administrator, said Monday that the windows were installed in 1972. Both were memorial panes--about 2 feet wide and 6 feet long--that honor congregation family members. Each had a color motif, rather than a biblical theme.